Legislators asked to back $45m school loan

LEGISLATORS are to be asked to sanction an interest-free loan of $45 million to help pay for an extension at the Hongkong International School in Tai Tam.

The loan, 47 per cent of the $95.6 million total cost of construction, will help pay for a new middle school building including 45 classrooms, car park, gymnasium and theatre.

It is estimated the new building will house about 675 extra students when completed next summer.

In a Finance Committee paper submitted to legislators yesterday, the Government said it had been suggested in 1990 that the school be expanded substantially to help meet increased demand.

The loan was calculated by multiplying the cost of building a standard aided secondary school, estimated at $29.16 million, by 155 per cent.

Legislator Mr Cheung Man-kwong said he would support the funding proposal, as the Government had pledged to review the existing policy on subsidising the expansion of schools under the direct subsidy scheme.

Mr Cheung, who represents the teaching profession, abstained on an earlier funding proposal in March to lend $20 million to the German Swiss International School for the building of an extension.

Under the direct subsidy scheme, non profit-making schools can secure an interest-free loan, subject to an upper limit of 155 per cent of the cost of a standard aided secondary school and repayable over 10 years.

The loans are aimed at improving standard facilities, major structural or emergency repairs, redevelopment and, in international schools, expansion.

The United Democrat legislator said he was unhappy to see schools under the scheme could get a loan for improving facilities which was 1.55 times those for aided schools.

While the Government promised to review this policy before October, Mr Cheung agreed that he would support funding proposals based on the original scheme for the time being.